Saturday 13th September will be Roald Dahl Day, a chance to remember one of children’s literature’s most famous, widely-read and thoroughly enjoyed authors.
As a person of a certain age I was amazed to realise that it is now 50 years since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was published. Although I was a little too old to be bought a copy for Christmas, I remember my brother and I subsequently being fascinated by Bernard Cribbins’s retelling of the story on Jackanory. Neither of us told our friends but we both rushed home from school every day to listen to it.
I think that is really the essence of Roald Dahl’s writing for children: it was fascinating, you got hooked on it and you had to know what was going to happen next. My brother and I were both brought up in the 1950s on Enid Blyton books, interesting but very much written from a parental point of view, telling us what parents felt we would be interested in and what would be good for us. Dahl looked at the world through the eyes of a child and appreciated that children are often fierce and ruthless folk who have little pity! I remember us both cheering when Willy Wonka’s unfortunate finalists were eliminated in gruesome ways!
So when one of our little sisters had trouble learning to read, it was Roald Dahl we turned to. The worthy ‘Janet and John’ books at school just weren’t interesting enough for her to make the effort, but James and the Giant Peach did the trick!
How wonderful now that so many writers are able to remember what it was like to be a child, people like Michael Morpurgo, who wrote War Horse and My Friend Walter amongst many others, Julia Jarman who wrote the ‘Georgie’ books and the wonderful Terry Deary and his ‘Horrible Histories’, so that even the most reluctant readers are being enticed into the world of words.